Two expeditions to the Russian High Arctic | Polarjournal
The Arctic Century Expedition is being carried out aboard the Akademik Tryoshnikov, a Russian research icebreaker. Currently, the ship is docked in Kiel, where it is being loaded for the expedition. Photo: Jan Steffen, GEOMAR

In August, scientists from Switzerland, Russia and Germany will travel with the Russian research icebreaker Akademik Tryoshnikov to particularly remote and inaccessible areas of the Arctic to study changes in the sensitive ecosystems there. In preparation for the Expedition, the Akademik Tryoshnikov is currently moored in Kiel to load equipment for the research work. “This is very convenient for us because we don’t have to ship our equipment in a costly and time-consuming way. They will be picked up at our doorstep”, says Dr. Heidemarie Kassens from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, chief scientist of the expedition.
Another expedition to the same region will start around the same time. More than 50 students and PhD students from various Russian universities and institutes will conduct research in eight different research areas on board the Akademik Ioffe as part of the Russian “Floating University”.

The Arctic Century Expedition was jointly organized and prepared by the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) and GEOMAR in Kiel. From Germany, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research are also taking part of the expedition. It is designed as a multidisciplinary research cruise focusing on otherwise rarely visited regions in the Kara and Laptev Seas, as well as Franz Josef Land and Sewernaja Semlja in the western Arctic.

In previous years, the Kiel scientists on board the Akademik Tryoshnikov have already been on expeditions in the Arctic. In addition to a comprehensive work program on land and on glaciers, marine research during this year’s Arctic Century Expedition will focus on several key areas in the Kara Sea. Photo: Carina Engicht

“There is hardly no other region in the world where climate change is progressing as fast as here. On site, we want to study the effects on the sensitive environmental system of the Arctic. To this end, we will carry out an extensive multidisciplinary work programme. What is special here is the combination of terrestrial, glaciological, marine and meteorological studies, because during this expedition we will not only be working on the high seas, but also on barely explored island of the Arctic,” explains Dr. Kassens.

The expedition officially starts in Murmansk (Russia) at the beginning of August. After a few days of transit, the first scientific stations in the Kara Sea should be reached. After that, an extensive terrestrial and glaciological work programme is planned on the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Sewernaja Semlja. The marine work programme will focus on key areas in the Saint Anna Trough, the continental margin of the Kara Sea, and the central Kara Sea. The expedition will return to Murmansk in early September. Participants will blog about their work and experiences in the Arctic.

The two archipelagos are located in the Russian sector of the High Arctic around the 80th latitude north and are little explored, not least because of their extreme remoteness. Moreover, Franz-Josef-Land was a restricted military area during the Cold War and even today permission from Russia is required to visit the islands. The small map shows the course of the Arctic Century Expedition from Murmansk along the east coast of Novaya Zemlya to the planned study area and back. Maps: Google Earth/Julia Hager & Swiss Polar Institute

At the same time, an expedition of the “Floating University” will take place in the same area. Undergraduate and graduate students will join leading scientists as part of the Floating University of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences to study, among other things, the spread of plastic and climate change in the Arctic, according to the press service of the Year of Science and Technologies in Russia. More than 50 students and young scientists from various universities and institutes in Russia will take part in the expedition to the Kara Sea aboard the research vessel Akademik Ioffe.

Interdisciplinary research will also be conducted on this expedition, but in contrast to the Arctic Century Expedition, participants will focus only on the marine realm. They will study a wide range of physical, biological and geochemical processes in the Russian Arctic. In particular, they will study the spread of plastic pollution in the Arctic, changes in the discharge of the Ob and Yenisei rivers, and the influx of warm Atlantic water into the northern Kara Sea, which is believed to contribute to climate warming in the Arctic.

During the same period and in the same area, undergraduate and graduate students will conduct various research activities on board the Akademik Ioffe (here off South Georgia) as part of the “Floating University.” Photo: Dr. Michael Wenger

The main research will be carried out in different areas of the Kara Sea: in estuaries and near-estuaries of the Ob, Yenisei and Pyazina rivers, in the Kara Strait and Vilkitsky Strait, and in the deep-water troughs of St. Anna and Voronin. Eight teams will work on board the vessel in the fields of hydrophysics, hydrochemistry, hydrobiology, plastic pollution, meteorology, wind waves, remote sensing and seismic acoustics.

Upon completion of the expedition, the undergraduate and graduate students will defend their research projects at the World Ocean Museum in Kaliningrad and prepare scientific publications based on the collected material.

The project is implemented with the support of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education within the framework of the Year of Science and Technology announced in 2021. The project is expected to help students and postgraduates to conduct independent scientific research, as well as to create conditions for development of new collaborations in the field of ocean studies.

Press releases GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel & TASS

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